Critics accusing animal shelter of abuse, neglect don’t get answers

CHICAGO RIDGE, Ill. – A suburban animal shelter was at the center of controversy at a village board meeting Tuesday night.

Edmund Kowalski, the Chicago Ridge, Ill., village trustee, cleared the Animal Welfare League of abusing or neglecting animals at Tuesday's meeting. He said the shelter passed the Illinois Department of Agriculture inspection three times in the last two months.

"I see some of you shaking your heads in disbelief. What is acceptable for the Department of Agriculture might not be acceptable for you and your  standards," Kowalski said.

The shelter was accused of animal cruelty and unsanitary conditions.

Concerned animal advocates shared photos with WGN that they say were taken in the past few months.

In the photos, mouse droppings can be seen all over the floor near occupied cages, as well as what looks like backed up sewage in the garage. In the photos, pigeons are seen freely roaming the areas where dogs and cats are kept.

Jo is a lifetime member of Animal Welfare League. She’s been a volunteer and coordinator over the years. She said there are money constraints since it is a non-profit organization. She said they can’t hire enough people and they have limited amounts of medications and money to do surgeries.

“What they need is for people to come in and volunteer or make contributions so the shelter can run more efficiently, more safely for the animals,” she said.

The conditions and treatment of animals at Animal Welfare League are so concerning to Robin Presnell, the executive director of Small Paws Rescue that she flew in from Tulsa, Okla., to be at Tuesday’s meeting after a pattern of sick dogs coming out of the shelter.

One was a Bichon named Cameo who came into the Animal Welfare League as a stray and was given very potent antibiotics that a necropsy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed may have caused her death by attacking her bone marrow.

Animal advocates at the meeting said they don’t want the shelter to shut down. They just want answers.

**WARNING: Video contains graphic images.

Other advocates shared their stories regarding the shelter. Balor, a 3-year-old pit bull was adopted by Lauren Belak and Mike Benedict In the middle of January from the Animal Welfare League.

When they went to pick him up, he still had staples in his stomach from being neutered in November. That was the first sign something was wrong.

“So that was 41 days that this dog sat in a kennel obviously without medical treatment because these staples were still in,” Belak said.

His owners then found a lump in his stomach. Belak was told Balor needed hernia surgery. They picked him up a few days later. His incision looked infected about 24 hours afterward. Belak said it was leaking and looked black and bloody.

The Animal Welfare League gave her pain medication and an antibiotic.

Belak said 24 hours later, the incision was completely ripped open. She said Balor was bleeding on the kitchen floor.

She called the Animal Welfare League again and was told the veterinarians had gone home.

“She told me if I had an old sock I should tie it around his stomach and call back at 8:30 in the morning,” Belak said.

Belak took Balor to a private veterinarian.

“They said the antibiotics he was on is not for a dog of his size and that would have never cleared an infection in a dog of his size,” she said.

In the paperwork Belak got from the Animal Welfare League when she took Balor home, there was no weight of the dog, necessary to dispense medications, no record of surgeries or who performed them.

According to the paperwork, everything was normal.

Belak filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation which licenses veterinarians.

“The vets there are not disclosing what they’re doing or giving to the animals and what the procedures are. They’re performing procedures without weights,” Belak said.

The Animal Welfare League did not return phone calls for comment.